There is an old saying in the Navy, to wit, “You can’t polish a turd.” This poetic, vulgar phrase helped old sailors teach new sailors that you can’t transform something inherently bad into something good and pleasant. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation of the FBI’s handling of the Carter Page FISA application is a case study in turd polishing. No matter how much you rub it and massage it, the end product is a putrid, disgusting thing.
The media mob, unwilling to actually read the report, seized on the following Horowitz conclusions as proof that this was all about nothing:
we concluded that the quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open the individual investigations on Papadopoulos, Page, Flynn, and Manafort in August 2016 was sufficient to satisfy the low threshold established by the Department and the FBI.
We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page.
But these are not the major conclusions of the Horowitz report. The Inspector General’s review of the FBI actions in their wide ranging effort to secure a FISA warrant to spy on Carter Page is damning. The FBI lied, obfuscated and hid exculpatory evidence.
Attorney General Barr weighed in to reinforce the fundamental findings of the Inspector General:
The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken. It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration. In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source. The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.
William Barr knows criminal activity and is not shy about calling out those responsible.
The most surprising development of the day was the statement released by Prosecutor John Durham, who is investigating the how this investigation of Trump actually was initiated. The Washington Post reported on Sunday the following nonsense:
Barr’s handpicked prosecutor tells inspector general he can’t back right-wing theory that Russia case was U.S. intelligence setup
Durham did not let that lie stand. He also issued a statement today on the heels of Attorney General Barr’s statement:
“I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff. However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department. Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,”
To reiterate–the Horowitz report, in general, presents one damning case after another of FBI misconduct and lying. But he did not take a serious look at the actual predication of the investigation. (Predication simply means the legal basis for starting the investigation). If you take time to read the Horowitz report you will see for yourself that he accepts the bogus claim as fact that “Russia”meddled in our election. That phrase has become an article of faith, but Russian intelligence activities surrounding the 2016 election did not–I REPEAT–did not help Donald Trump win a surprising victory in November 2016.
I suspect most of you do not have the patience or time to wade through the turgid prose of Horowitz. So let me share a couple of the most damning conclusions:
The Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform Department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed. Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause and, in some instances, resulted in inaccurate information being included in the applications. (p. V)
However, as we describe later, as the FBI obtained additional information raising significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting, the FBI failed to reassess the Steele reporting relied upon in the FISA applications, and did not fully advise NSD or 01 officials. We also found that the FBI did not aggressively seek to obtain certain potentially important information from Steele. . . . Agents also did not question Steele about his role in a September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article entitled, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump advisor and Kremlin,” that described efforts by U.S. intelligence to determine whether Carter Page had opened communication channels with Kremlin officials. (p. VI)
the Department decision makers who supported and approved the application were not given all relevant information. (p. VII)
In support of the fourth element in the FISA application-i.e. Carter Page’s alleged coordination with the Russian government on 2016 U.S. presidential election activities-the application relied entirely on the following information from Steele Reports 80, 94, 95, and 102:
We found that the FBI did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page in Steele’s reporting when it relied upon his reports in the first FISA application or subsequent renewal applications. . . . the Woods Procedures require only that the agent verify, with supporting documentation, that the application accurately reflects what the CHS told the FBI.
the representations about Steele’s prior reporting were overstated and had not been approved by Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures.
Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are “scrupulously accurate.” We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.
In fact, Horowitz does not praise FBI leaders, particularly Comey and McCabe, for doing a damn fine job. To the contrary. They are roundly and universally condemned for failing to follow FBI policies and procedures.
The Horowitz take down of the failures of the FBI should alarm any American committed to protecting civil liberties. Here’s the relevant section of the summary:
Relevant Information Inaccurately Stated, Omitted, or Undocumented in the First Application
- Omitted information the FBI had obtained from the CIA detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;
- Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” which overstated the significance of Steele’s past reporting and was not approved by Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures;
- Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source, namely that ( 1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “egoist” and “may engage in some embellishment”.
- Asserted that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and Fusion GPS, his client; this premise was incorrect and contradicted by documentation in the Woods File– Steele had told the FBI that he also gave his information to the State Department;
- Omitted Papadopoulos’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like Wikileaks in the release of emails;
- Omitted Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in August 2016 that Page had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page’s emails; if true, those statements were in tension with claims in Report 95 that Page was participating in a conspiracy with Russia by acting as an intermediary for Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign; and
- Included Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in October 2016 that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made that were inconsistent with its theory, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was; if true, those statements contradicted the claims in Report 94 that Page had met secretly with Sechin and Divyekin about future cooperation with Russia and shared derogatory information about candidate Clinton.
We concluded that the failures described above and in this report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications. These failures prevented OI from fully performing its gatekeeper function and deprived the decision makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions. Although some of the factual misstatements and omissions we found in this review were arguably more significant than others, we believe that all of them taken together resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case.
That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process. FBI Headquarters established a chain of command for Crossfire Hurricane that included close supervision by senior CD managers, who then briefed FBI leadership throughout the investigation.
It is amazing the Jim Comey, the disgraced former FBI Director, was tweeting today like he won the Super Bowl. He seems to think he was exonerated. He was not. This report condemns his conduct. The flaws and lies in the Carter Page FISA application were not minor slip ups by low level clerks. The Chain of Command allowed this disgrace to go forward. That is on Jim Comey. No matter how much scrubbing and polishing you want to do on Jim Comey, you can’t remove this brown stain of stink.